Apple’s new Lightning dock connector which debuted on the iPhone 5 and the new colorful iPod touch isn’t just 80 percent smaller (and nearly identical in size to the micro-USB), reversible and all digital, it is also designed with USB I/O technology in mind.

According to a report from Macotakara, the Japanese blog with a fairly accurate track record, Lightning I/O has built-in support to host USB devices, which could lead to more fully-featured accessories than previously possible. Think keyboards, digital cameras, MIDI interfaces, mics and other USB-based gear…

According to the Macotakara report (machine-translated):

In the conventional Dock adapter, three types of charging accessories development, serial, the device was possible, USB host seems to be added to these.

New dock connector Lightning is capable for hosting USB devices.

Since old Dock connector regulation supports 3types of accessories as charging, serial and device, new Lightning supports additionally hosting USB devices.

I think Macotakara is onto something here.

The Apple Camera Connection Kit already enables iPad owners to connect digital cameras via USB. While the adapter’s functionality is limited to transferring photos and video clips only, it shows Apple’s willingness to concede where it makes sense.

Pictured here: Apple’s $19 Lightning to USB cable.

I’m purely speculating here, but this could make possible a much broader range of accessories. In theory, a vendor could take existing USB accessory and make it work with Lightning-equipped iOS devices just by writing a dedicated app to control it.

Users would be able to connect a USB accessory to their Lightning device via the Lightning to USB cable, pictured above. Or maybe a Lightning to USB adapter is in the works?

This wasn’t technically possible at all with the legacy 30-pin dock connector, which didn’t support USB hosting capability.

Apple’s $29 Lightning to 30-pin Adapter (sold separately, apparently) ensures backwards compatibility with the accessories relying on the legacy 30-pin dock connector.

Wondering why the iPhone 5 has a Lightning connector instead of a micro-USB port?

It’s because that connector isn’t smart enough.

Your take on this alleged USB hosting Lightning capability?

  • Falk M.

    Also Micro USB is a horrible design.
    It’s so flawed in so many ways…

    • I agree. I hated it when I had it in my past phones.

    • “…to support USB hosting…” but not USB 3. Let’s be real, currently available micro USB doesn’t support USB 3 either. But if they decided to update the design (just so the phone could be one measly millimeter thinner), they could’ve at least made it USB 3. What happened to being innovative and leading the industry? Lightning my ass. The only good thing about it is that it’s double sided. It’s like a gigantic fuck you to everyone who owns accessories, and yet another expense to buy adapters. This will bring Apple hundreds of millions, and yet, everyone keeps praising them. Insanity.

      • Falk M.

        Uhm, I heavily disagree here, by that logic we’d still have VGA, or even worse: SCART, S-VIDEO, etc…
        But I agree, especially with a name like “Lightning” (SUUUUPER suggestive and misleading) that thing should have Thunderbolt COMPATIBILITY (standard cable can be whatever it wants to be…. USB2 even, I don’t care)… Or USB3 at least…

        I HOPE it will be easily upgradeable, especially as (I think) Tim Cook said this connector is here to stay for many years to come.

      • DVI, Dual Link DVI, and now HDMI are standard and are all better than VGA. None of those standards was a change just for the sake of change. Which is exactly what Lightning is. It brought nothing new to the table. It was implemented so the iPhone could be yet another millimeter thinner. Seems as if Apple cares more about bragging rights of having the thinnest smartphone on the market, instead of actually caring about their consumers and the inconvenience the new connector is going to cause.

      • Falk M.

        Hmm, well, I agree the new connector needs some fresh data speeds etc…

        Apple’s excuse is probably to “cut the wire”… pah!
        I’m with you there.

        Well, I think eventually the connector will make sense, it DID bring new stuff, just not new data speeds… presumably… so far the cables are just USB2, but who knows what the chip on the port in the new iPhone is capable of?
        Then again, that’d be bad marketing and not make much sense, but oh well, we’ll see… :S

      • If USB could be backwards compatible for all these years, then Lightning can be forwards compatible. They don’t really have to physically change the port itself to allow faster data speeds. (Thunderbold and USB are great examples of this.) They can always improve the cable itself and the hardware on the device. Like you said, we’ll see. 🙂

  • Does anyone know if Lightning uses USB 2.0 or 3.0?
    They DID just put it in all their MacBooks…

    • Falk M.

      USB2, that’s the irony considering the name… LOL

  • David Ferrandino

    i wonder if the ios software is capable to run video out via its connector